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Tatar-Bashkir Report: February 5, 2002

5 February 2002
Tatarstan Shocked By Bloody Rampage Of Army Deserters
Republican law enforcement managed to end a killing spree by two Russian army deserters by 2:00 a.m. local time on 5 February, after the two killed at least two police and two civilians in Tatarstan. The escapees reportedly stole two Kalashnikovs from the 31st military base in Ulyanovsk Oblast and crossed the border into Tatarstan on the evening of 4 February. Ulyanovsk military officials had confirmed the desertion that morning of Sergeant Almaz Shageyev, 21, and Mikhail Sukhorukov, 20.

Highway police and militia had blocked many roads in the republic, thoroughly checking cargo transports and recommending that residents abstain from travel. Russian public television ORT reported on 5 February that both young men had served in Chechnya. Investigators from the Tatarstan Interior Ministry expressed surprise at the fact that Shageyev, who was previously convicted in two felony cases, was accepted into the elite airborne corps. Some 300 officers from the special militia, an armored personnel carrier, and a helicopter were used in the emergency operation.

Minister Pledges To Step Up Privatization Effort
"Vremya i dengi" daily quoted Minister of Land and Property Affairs Valerii Vasilyev on 5 February saying the republic will step up the privatization of state-owned industry and transform 160-180 ventures into private entities during 2002. Only 50 state companies underwent privatization in 2001, while 1,900 companies that represent nearly 76 percent of the total planned for privatization have already been sold off. Privatization is expected to yield some $35.5 million in investment for the republic in 2002-03.

President To Discuss Funding Of Kazan Millennium Celebrations
President Mintimer Shaimiev is to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on 5 February to discuss financial obstacles to the celebration of Kazan's millennium, to be held in 2005, the Tatarstan president's press service reported.

Moscow-Based Muslim Leader Supportive Of Tatarstan Board...
Speaking at Tatarstan's Muslim Congress on 2 February, the chairman of Russia's Muftis Board, Ravil Gaynutdin, praised the activities of the republic's Muslim Religious Board and stated that "despite the dreams of [supreme mufti of Russia and the European countries of the CIS] Talgat Tadjuddin, the united Muslim Religious Board in Russia will not be created in the near future." Gaynutdin noted that during a 24 January meeting with President Putin, the Russian president "expressed interest in Islam and the Islamic world."

...While Supreme Muftis Board Member Expresses Discontent
Ferit Salman -- an assistant to Ufa-based Mufti Talgat Tadjuddin who quit Tatarstan's Muslims Religious Board (MRB) and publicly opposed its leader, Gusman Khazrat Iskhakov -- told Efir TV on 3 February that the open ballot to elect a MRB chairman the previous day "was just a show in the Kamal Theater building," adding that in his opinion, the vote ought to be secret.

Two unsuccessful candidates, Kamil Khazrat Bikchentaev and Haris Khazrat Salikhjan, told reporters after the vote that "voters were more afraid of the leadership than of God" during the open voting procedure. Before the elections to the chairman's seat, the Muslim Congress was overwhelmingly in favor of an open vote.

Kazan Mayor Demands Better Service From Public Transport
Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhakov sharply criticized the head of the city's committee on transport and roads development, Shamil Gyilmanov, interrupting the latter's report at the very start on 4 February. Iskhakov lambasted Gyilmanov for not understanding the problems of ordinary residents who use public transport. Referring to Gyilmanov's report, the mayor suggested that committee members personally inspect public transport operations -- adding that unticketed passengers represent 80 percent of travelers on trams and trolley buses.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Bashkortostan Tatars To Form Alternative Tatar Congress
An independent public group announced plans to establish an organization, called Bashkortostan's Tatar Congress, which will seek to become a part of World Tatar Congress, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 4 February. The new group is expected to oppose the present Tatar Congress of Bashkortostan, established in 1997, which it considers to be in the pocket of the Bashkir government.

TPC Hopes Harmonization Entrenches Tatar Language In Bashkortostan...
The Tatar Public Center (TPC) in Bashkortostan gathered for a congress on 2 February to discuss domestic government policy and the current state of affairs for ethnic Tatars in the republic. TPC leader Airat Giniatullin said in his speech that a law on official languages -- which he claims violates the rights of Tatars, who represent the second-largest ethnic group in Bashkortostan -- was preserved by the government among other laws that Russian authorities demand be changed to jibe with federal legislation. Giniatullin said his organization hopes that after the existing law is amended, it stipulates the status of the Tatar language in the republic.

...Sets Up Committee To Combat 'Bashkirization' In 2002 Census...
The TPC congress issued a resolution opposing what it describes as attempts to register the Tatar population in Bashkortostan as Bashkirs in the upcoming national census. "Although Baptized Tatars will not register as Tatars, that does not represent any significant danger to us because their number is not significant; it is more important to prevent the 'Bashkirization' of Tatar people," the resolution claimed. A special committee was set up to coordinate TPC activities in this field. The census is scheduled for late 2002.

...Revisits Civic Partnerships, Seeks Cooperation With Berezovsky Group
The TPC congress approved efforts to establish cooperation with Boris Berezovsky's Liberal Russia despite opposition from some quarters to ties with ethnic Russian groups. The TPC branch leader in the Durtile Region, former militia officer Viner Fattakhov, said in his report at the congress that after trying to cooperate with the Rus and Ravnopraviye movements and Grigorii Yavlinsky's party branch in Bashkortostan, his organization said they "were strongly influenced by special services." As a result, he suggested the TPC not cooperate with Russian movements.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi